Keeping Native or Exotic Wild Animals as Pets – Position Statement
May 9, 2016
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) opposes keeping any native or exotic wild animal species, or their hybrids, as pets. Doing so may compromise animal welfare, pose unnecessary health and safety risks to humans and domesticated companion animals, and may adversely impact the ecosystem. The CVMA opposes any surgical procedures performed on these animals solely for the purpose of making the animal a safer companion.
- Legislation clearly defines wild animals in many jurisdictions.
- Keeping native wild animals is prohibited except under permit in most regions of Canada.
- Regional legislation also may prohibit keeping exotic animals that are considered dangerous, hazardous to the environment, or very difficult to manage in captivity based on specialized husbandry and psychological requirements.
- Fundamental guidelines are necessary to distinguish non-traditional captive-born animals (which can potentially be acceptable pets) from wild animals.
- Some smaller indigenous and non-native animal species (e.g., various birds, small non-venomous reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and small mammals), which are in the process of domestication, are being successfully propagated in captivity for the pet trade.
- When maintained under responsible pet ownership, these animals pose minimal hazard to the health and safety of humans and other animals if well-established quarantine protocols, hygiene practices, and safety procedures are followed. When not followed, there is a risk for zoonotic disease, or to the health of indigenous wildlife and the ecosystem (1-7).
- Although native or exotic wild animal species (e.g., large carnivores, non-human primates, large and/or venomous reptiles) may be captive-born and available to the pet trade, these animals do not make good pets.
- While they can become acclimated to humans and may appear to be tame, they present a serious potential risk to the health and safety of humans and other animals (1-9).
- These animals may be acquired by humans who cannot provide for or do not have good basic information regarding their behaviour, proper care, housing, nutritional requirements, and training (11-13).
- Carnivores and non-human primates are often subjected to various surgical procedures (e.g., declawing, canine extraction or blunting, neutering, or descenting) to prolong their maintenance as pets (10-12).
- If the animal becomes an unacceptable pet as it reaches maturity, disposing of it can be a traumatic experience for both the animal and the owner, and presents an ethical dilemma (13).
- Legitimate zoos have legislative and accreditation requirements for responsible collection planning and usually will not accept a wild animal pet.
- Often sanctuaries have limited space or resources to accept the animals.
- Release to the wild is not a viable option since the animal may not be able to fend for itself and could pose a threat to humans, other animals, and the environment.
- Euthanasia may be the only option, if the animal’s physical and mental needs cannot be met in a safe situation.
- The list of non-traditional species considered acceptable for pet ownership is continually evolving based on societal and legislative perspectives. An animal should be considered an unacceptable pet if any of the following criteria are true:
- The animal presents a significant health or safety risk to humans or other animals.
- The animal will present a risk to the environment if it escapes.
- The acquisition of this animal will have an impact on the conservation of this or other species in the wild.
- The CVMA is opposed to the capture of wild animals to be kept as pets (14).
- The long-term husbandry, health, and welfare needs of the captive animal cannot be met at all stages of its life.
- Qualified and willing veterinary support is not locally available for the care of the animal.
- Special training, facilities, or experience, not commonly available in domestic animal practices, may be required to provide appropriate veterinary care of wild animals and non-traditional pet species.
- Azad AF. Prairie dog: Cuddly pet or Trojan horse? Emerg Infect Dis 2004;10:542-543. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol10no3/04-0045.htm Last accessed February 2, 2016.
- Barrat J, Richomme C, Moinet M. The accidental release of exotic species from breeding colonies and zoological collections. Rev Sci Tech Off Int Epiz 2010;29:113-122. Available from: http://web.oie.int/boutique/extrait/12barrat113122.pdf Last accessed February 2, 2016.
- Chomel BB, Belotto A, Meslin FX. Wildlife, Exotic Pets, and Emerging Zoonoses. Emerg Infect Dis 2007;13:6-11. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2725831/ Last accessed February 2, 2016.
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- Souza MJ. Bacterial and parasitic zoonoses of exotic pets. Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract 2009;12:401-415.
- Reaser JK, Clark EE Jr, Meyers NM. All creatures great and minute: A public policy primer for companion animal zoonoses. Zoonoses Public Health 200;:55:385-401.
- Warwick C, Steedman C. Injuries, envenomations and stings from exotic pets. J R Soc Med 2012;105:296-299.
- Liebman M. Detailed discussion on legal aspects of exotic pet laws and cases in US. 2004. Available from: http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ddusexoticpets.htm Last accessed February 2, 2016.
- Omalu BI, Dominick JT, Uhrich TG, Wecht CH. Fatal constriction of an 8-year-old child by her parents' pet python: A call for amendment to existing laws on the ownership of exotic wildlife to protect children from avoidable injury and death. Child Abuse Negl 2003;27:989-991.
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Partial Digital Amputation (Onychectomy, Declawing) of Non-Domestic Felids and Other Carnivores Kept in Captivity – Position Statement 2016. Available from: http://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/partial-digital-amputation-of-non-domestic-felids-carnivores Last accessed May 4, 2016.
- Soulsbury CD, Iossa G, Kennell S, Harris S. The welfare and suitability of primates kept as pets. J Appl Anim Welf Sci 2009;12:1-20.
- Keeble E. Addressing the welfare needs of exotic animal pets. J Sm An Prac 2003;44:517.
- Kuehn BM. Wildlife pets create ethical, practical challenges for veterinarians. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:171-173.
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Capture of Wild Animals for the Pet Trade Position Statement 2012. Available from: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/capture-of-wild-animals-for-the-pet-trade Last accessed February 2, 2016.
(Revised March 2016)